Brands should embrace FOMO or miss out

Dr Chris Hodkinson, Senior Lecturer at UQ Business School
By Dr Chris Hodkinson, Senior Lecturer at UQ Business School | 10 August 2017
Chris Hodkinson

FOMO - the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ - is probably the single most important driver of millennials’ consumption decisions, yet few businesses have gone further than using it as a ‘call to action’.

Its potential is much greater than that. It can be harnessed in pre-purchase, consumption, and post-purchase phases and yet few companies go beyond its superficial use. This may be because effective use of the appeal requires a deeper understanding of the Millennials’ underlying mind-set and the specific customer behaviour associated with a product category or a particular product.

Most importantly FOMO is a mindset that Millennials have grown up with and it will be with them for the rest of their lives. An understanding of FOMO appeal responses is essential if companies are to realise its full potential and incorporate them into sales and follow-up processes.

The key to the effective adoption of FOMO as an appeal lies in conducting insightful research, which uncovers the psychological and the social implications of the considered action or purchase. Once these insights are gained, especially in the case of services, supportive elements can be designed into sales and service processes that capture more customers, enhance the customer experience, promote repurchase and even create product advocates.

Properly implemented, even non-purchasers can be influenced to positively consider subsequent offers. The tools by which marketers can address the Millennials’ Fear Of Missing Out – and in some cases it is a fear - are readily available. FOMO is a significant driver of many aspects of Millennials’ lives including their over-use of social media, and in particular, purchases of goods and experiential services.

Even in the days of hunter-gatherers, hunters probably worried whether they had missed out on a bigger woolly mammoth or gatherers might have fretted over whether they might have found a tree with more fruit. FOMO is an element of the human psyche that is as old as the ages BUT it has never been a more important driver of human behaviour – and it will continue to be as the Millennials age.

FOMO has a special meaning for them - it is the apprehension that others might be having more rewarding experiences from which they are absent. As they strive to portray their lives in social media as being exciting and perfect FOMO becomes a double-edged sword because they often feel intense disquiet that their social media ‘friends’ are doing better than they are and thus they are ‘missing out’.

FOMO is a cultural meme saturating a generation that embraces the huge range of choices available to them. There are more parties, more products, and more experiences to choose from than ever before. Because of this, many Millennials experience discomfort with their specific choices as they have that sneaking suspicion the other option/s may have been better!

While research shows that social events predominate in relation to FOMO, even missing out on mere information causes Millennials discomfort – what if one of their friends changed their relationship status and they didn’t know?

The FOMO concept is deeply embedded in youth popular culture. If you need proof of its paramount importance, check out the thousands of YouTube clips of the phenomenon which range from advertisements and spoofs about it being a ‘serious medical condition’ through to well-meaning psychological advice on how to deal with FOMO.

Research has shown links between their feelings of FOMO and behaviours including: the compulsive checking of social media, the need for ‘likes’, their drinking and other behaviours, and most significantly their need for social inclusion. FOMO is here to stay and it offers long standing rewards to those who understand and embrace it in their business dealings with Millennials.

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